IVF and Fertility Specialists Clinic
Day 3 FSH Fertility Testing of Ovarian Reserve - Follicle Stimulating Hormone Test
Page author Richard Sherbahn MD
Antral follicle counts and response of the ovaries to stimulation with injectable gonadotropins are other variables that affect the overall chance for conception when we attempt IVF - in vitro fertilization.
Female age is a very important variable. However, a woman can be 42 and still have some good quality eggs (and still be fertile), or she can be 25 with poor quality eggs and be infertile, although this is rare.
In general, egg quantity and quality tends to decline slowly starting in the early 30's, and then much faster in the late 30s and early 40s.
What does FSH hormone do?Follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) is one of the most important hormones involved in the natural menstrual cycle as well as in pharmacological (drug-induced) stimulation of the ovaries. It is the main hormone involved in producing mature eggs in the ovaries..
FSH is the same hormone that is contained in the injectable gonadotropins which are used to produce multiple eggs for infertility treatment.
What produces FSH hormone?Both FSH and LH hormone are produced by the pituitary gland at the base of the brain. When a women goes into menopause she is running out of eggs in her ovaries. The brain senses that there is a low estrogen environment - and signals the pituitary to make more FSH hormone. More FSH is released from the pituitary in an attempt to stimulate the ovaries to produce a good follicle and estrogen hormone.
Think of it like stepping on the gas pedal in the car to get going. The FSH is the gas, and the pituitary gland releases FSH to get a follicle "going" at the beginning of every menstrual cycle. If there are less follicles left (and perhaps lower quality follicles) the amount of "gas" has to be increased to get a follicle developing.
In a menopausal woman, the gas pedal is on the floor for the rest of her life - even though there are no follicles (or eggs) left. The woman's body never gives up trying - FSH levels are permanently elevated.
Women in menopause have high FSH hormone levels - above 40 mIU/ml. As women approach menopause their baseline FSH levels (day 3 of their cycle) will tend to gradually increase over the years. When they run out of follicles capable of responding, their FSH will be high and they stop having periods.
Why do we measure the FSH level on day 3?By measuring a woman's baseline FSH on day 3 of the cycle (we do it on day 2, 3, or 4), we get an indication as to whether she has normal "ovarian reserve". We are looking at how hard her body needs to "step on the gas" early in the menstrual cycle to get a follicle growing.
Therefore, if the baseline FSH is elevated the ovarian reserve (how many eggs are left) is reduced (sometimes the egg quality is also reduced).
Some practical problems with the day 3 FSH test:
|Day 3 FSH level||FSH interpretation for DPC Immulite assay|
|Less than 9||Normal FSH level. Expect a good response to ovarian stimulation.|
|9 - 11||Fair. Response is between normal and somewhat reduced (response varies widely). Overall, a slightly reduced live birth rate.|
|11- 15||Reduced ovarian reserve. Expect a reduced response to stimulation and some reduction in embryo quality with IVF. Reduced live birth rates on the average.|
|15 - 20||Expect a more marked reduction in response to stimulation and usually a further reduction in embryo quality. Low live birth rates. Antral follicle count is an important variable.|
|Over 20||This is pretty much a "no go" level in our center. Very poor (or no) response to stimulation. "No go" levels should be individualized for the particular lab assay and IVF center.|
In general, your ovarian reserve is as bad as your worst FSH. If you have an FSH of 15 in one cycle and then a a 7 in another cycle - the situation is not improving. Some women "bounce around" with FSH levels in the normal to abnormal range. However, they tend to respond and have chances for pregnancy as predicted by their highest FSH level.
Waiting for a menstrual cycle with a lower FSH level and then stimulating right away for IVF is not of any proven benefit.
Young women (under 35) with elevated FSH levels tend to stimulate better and have a much higher IVF success potential than "older" women. The better egg quality in the younger women can compensate for the quantity problem.
What we want on day three is a low FSH level in conjunction with a low estradiol level. If the FSH is normal but the estradiol level is elevated, the elevated estradiol will often be artificially "suppressing" the FSH level down to the normal range.
The idea of using day 3 estradiol levels as an adjunct in evaluating egg quantity and quality is relatively recent. Clearly defined cutoff values for normal are not well established. We like to see the day 3 estradiol less than about 80. We repeat borderline or abnormal results in another menstrual cycle to try to get a "true" FSH.
There is some evidence that an elevated day 3 estradiol indicates a problem with ovarian reserve. This is sometimes the case, but often the issue is just that the elevated estrogen level is "masking" the potential for detecting low reserve by suppressing FSH into the normal range.
A clomiphene challenge test is a dynamic type of test that can discover some cases of poor ovarian reserve that are still showing a normal day 3 FSH.
The normal Clomid challenge test result is a low FSH on day 3, a low estradiol on day 3 and a low FSH on day 10.
Cut off values for the day 3 and the day 10 FSH values are assay dependent and must be determined by experience with the lab being used.
In vitro fertilization is a treatment for infertility, not a test. However, the IVF cycle details can give useful information about egg and embryo quality. By careful examination of the eggs and embryos during in vitro culture we can get clues about why pregnancy has not occurred previously.
For example, the eggs may demonstrate poor morphology, may have problems with maturation, with fertilization, or with proper cleavage, etc..
|Babies who had our help|